Saturday, December 19, 2015

We Mark Another Sad Anniversary

Each year for the past now dozen years, as the Christmas holiday approaches, I've marked this date with great sadness.  Today, December 19, 2015, marks another anniversary of the day my best friend for 57 years, Larry Moore, passed away.  Those of you who have been frequent readers will recognize this story, and you can read about it in greater detail in the entry I posted two years ago, HERE.
Larry Moore and I were best friends for most of our lives - ever since that day my mother and I saw him jump off his garage roof, which was preceded with a cheery exclamation, "Hey, look at me!", and off he went, landing on the little grass strip between two concrete runners.  Yep, that was the beginning.
We grew up together, closer than most brothers, and shared almost every special moment in our lives.  We dated some of the same girls, participated in some of the same sports - although he was a much more accomplished athlete than I.  Although not a man of great physical stature, he excelled in football, basketball and water sports - swimming and water polo.  In the case of the latter two, he continued to participate in those sports until late in his life, and continued to excel.  During his 31 years with the Los Angeles Police Department he continued to swim and play water polo until the day he retired.  As Athletic Director for the LAPD for the last fifteen years of his career, he and his partner on the job, Chuck Foote, created the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay - one of the most grueling footraces in the world.  He created an event called "The Toughest Cop Alive", in which competitors would engage in eight individual events in one day, things like swimming, running, rope climbing, weight lifting.  It's truly ironic that, during his six-week battle for his life, he was, indeed,  "The Toughest Cop Alive."

My friend died in Las Vegas following six weeks in the Trauma Intensive Care unit of a hospital as a result of a solo motorcycle accident on a lonely desert road as he headed home from a visit with friends who lived just outside of Las Vegas.  We'll never know what caused him to crash - maybe it was inattention, trying to tune his radio - but whatever it was, he missed a turnoff, continued on up a grade to a point where the desert road leveled off, crossed a double railroad track, then made an immediate left hand turn.  Larry didn't navigate the turn, layed the motorcycle down out in front of him as he had been trained to do as a motorcycle officer with the LAPD, and began to slide.  At one point his tires slipped off the smooth, raised double yellow line onto the weathered, coarse asphalt, which just reached out and grabbed his tires and slammed him to the ground like a rag doll.

Foreign tourists, themselves lost on that same road, saw the dust and rushed to his side.  Still conscious, he identified himself and told them he was badly hurt.  They summoned a railroad work crew that had been working on those tracks nearby, who had the wisdom to call for a helicopter, which transported him to the closest hospital - in Las Vegas, about 70 miles away.

I held his power of attorney for health care, so was called immediately.  I drove to Vegas as quickly as I could, arriving the next day, not knowing what to expect.  What I found was my friend near death from injuries one might associate with a beating with a baseball bat - fractured ribs, fractured transverse processes of the spine, a broken hip socket and - as was discovered when he first arrived at the hospital - a torn descending aorta.  Thus began a six-week vigil by his side in that hospital room as the staff tried every trick in the book to bring him back to us.  And, eventually, it looked like he might actually make it.

Twelve years ago on this date I left the hospital just after 6:00 p.m. after having spent the past dozen hours at his side.  He'd had a tough day following an emergency surgery the evening before.  He seemed to be safe and stable in his room and the staff was busy completing the paperwork about this latest emergency, so I headed back to my hotel with a stop at a Wendy's for some takeout food before settling in to write what had become a regular email report to his many friends.  But, before I got five minutes down the road I was recalled to the hospital.

When I arrived I found his attending physician and a half-dozen associates in his room.  He had suffered a cardiac arrest - just as he had the evening before as he was being wheeled in to the operating room for that surgical procedure.  This time it was very grim.  I stood in the doorway next to his doctor as she orchestrated many attempts to bring him back.  She would give directions, the staff would respond, then look at her for more instructions.  Finally, after one more attempt with a defibrillator, they looked at her... then at me... and I knew it was time to stop.

At 6:37 p.m., December 19, 2003, my friend lost his fight.

I spent the next several hours notifying his family and closest friends.  Among the first calls I made was to his eldest daughter, Kara, who proudly followed her father to the LAPD.  Before I left the Trauma Intensive Care unit every staff member on duty sought me out to offer their condolences to me, and to his thousands of friends.  During the six weeks he was there they had grown to admire and love my friend, and the fighting spirit he demonstrated every day.  As my sweet wife said that night as we discussed Larry, "He just made everyone around him feel loved."  I then decamped to my hotel room and wrote the email to his friends that I never wanted to write.  What had begun six weeks earlier as a nightly email communication to a handful of people ended up being communications relayed among literally thousands of people, including one dear friend who was reading them in Antarctica.
So, on this sad anniversary, let me remind you, one more time, to tell the people you love how you feel.  Don't wait, because you just never know what kind of curve is ahead on the road of life.  And, as always, I want you all to know how grateful I am for your readership.  Not all of you agree with what I write on these pages, but you continue to read - thank you for that.  This is the final photo of my friend and me.  He was a wonderful man and I miss him every day.

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Anonymous Ken Nyquist said...

Another year has passed us by Geoff. You are a true friend in missing him so much this many years later.

We wish you and Mrs. West a safe holiday period.

Take it easy...

12/19/2015 10:11:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

Thanks for standing by for a friend. If I ever find myself in such a situation I hope that someone like you will handle it.

12/19/2015 01:07:00 PM  
Anonymous FriendlyNeighbor said...

What a lovely tribute to your friend. I'm very sorry for your loss but thank you for sharing this eulogy with the intent to remind all of us that the value of friendship and family overshadows all the fancy and expensive gifts bombarding us at this time of year. Best wishes to you and your family and we appreciate your blog.

12/22/2015 08:21:00 AM  

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